Within the physical realm, processes at the interfaces between ice, ocean, land and atmosphere are critical to our ability to describe and predict the response to climate change. Outstanding uncertainties will require continued research directed at improving understanding of ice sheet dynamics, extracting climate records from the ice sheet, exploring processes and changes in sea-ice and ocean circulation, and improving understanding of atmospheric dynamics and chemistry and the role of the ozone hole in Antarctic climate. A distinct component of physical sciences research in Antarctica is based on the unique properties of the continent that favour its use as a platform for astronomical and solar-terrestrial observations.
Physical Sciences Activities within SCAR are designed to coordinate international scientific research across several fields:
- The Antarctic continent and the Southern Ocean play key roles in global climate change, and observations of climate parameters and their evolution over time there are crucial to understand and predict local and global change.
- Antarctica is a key environment for studies of all aspects of the cryosphere, including deriving the history of climate change from ice cores.
- The position of the magnetic South Pole makes Antarctica (like the Arctic in the north) a region where interactions between a variable star, our Sun, and the Earth can be best monitored from the ground.
- The characteristics of the site (dry, cold, and wind free at some locations, especially on the high domes of the polar plateau) make Antarctica one of the places on Earth where astronomical research is expected to be best conducted.
- Lack of human habitation makes Antarctica a pristine environment in which slight contamination from human activities and from distant volcanic eruptions can readily be observed and related to global physical processes.
Physical Sciences Scientific Research Programme:
This Scientific Research Programme aims to deliver improved regional projections of key elements of the Antarctic atmosphere, ocean and cryosphere for the next 20 to 200 years, and to understand the responses of the physical and biological systems (through multi-disciplinary collaboration) to natural and anthropogenic climate drivers.
Physical Sciences Action and Expert Groups:
This Expert Group aims to review research into our current understanding of past and possible future climate-related changes in the physical environment of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean, and the impact on the terrestrial and marine biota. The group is responsible for preparing an annual update on Antarctic climate and impacts for the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting.
This Action Group aims to organise an international large scale campaign to investigate clouds and aerosols in Antarctica through a series of special observing periods when intensive ground-based measurements would be made at the same time as in-situ measurements using instrumented aircraft.
This Action Group aims to develop a network of Antarctic gravity wave observatories, operated by different nations working together in a spirit of close scientific collaboration, in order to address scientific processes on a polar scale.
This Action Group aims to develop a continent‐wide, age‐depth model of Antarctica’s ice using the internal layers and surfaces imaged by radar‐sounding and use this to determine the stability of the Antarctic Ice Sheets over past glacial cycles.
This Expert Group aims to establish a biologically focussed, integrated and coordinated Antarctic-wide observation system, to identify and track environmental variability and change at biologically relevant scales, and to use this information to inform biological, physical, and earth science studies. This group is co-sponsored by SCAR's Life Sciences, Physical Sciences and Geosciences Groups.
This Expert Group aims at improving our understanding of the Antarctic sea ice zone through focussed and ongoing field programmes, remote sensing and numerical modelling.
This Action Group aims to be a permanent advocate for acquiring satellite data over the Antarctic and and Southern Ocean region from multiple space agencies, to recommend the type observations needed to measure climate variables and to recommend how best to preserve earth observation data long term.
This Expert Group aims to coordinate the community engaged in research on the glaciological, oceanic and atmospheric processes governing the behaviour of ice shelves that are key to the ice sheet contribution to sea level change.
This Expert Group aims to build and coordinate a robust network of international collaborations to address a variety of weather and space weather related needs at high latitudes and the polar regions (Arctic and Antarctica), through ad hoc data sharing and models development. This group is co-sponsored by SCAR's Geosciences and Physical Sciences Groups.
This Action Group aims to facilitate coordinated investigation of chemical input to the Antarctic region, monitoring the routes through which toxic, environmental contaminants reach the continent.
This Expert Group aims to promote research on the estimation of the mass balance of ice sheets and its contribution to sea level, facilitate coordination among the different international efforts focused in this field, propose directions for future research, integrate the observations and modelling efforts, as well as the distribution and archiving of the corresponding data, and contribute to the diffusion, to society and policy makers, of the current scientific knowledge and the main achievements in this field of science. This group is co-sponsorsed by SCAR, the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) and the WCRP Climate and Cryosphere Project (CliC).
This Expert Group aims to coordinate international collaboration between ice core scientists, engineers, and drillers to aid in providing information about past climate and environmental conditions on timescales from decades to hundreds of millennia. This group is supported by the Past Global Changes (PAGES), SCAR and the International Association of Cryospheric Sciences (IACS).
This Expert Group aims to establish and nurture links between groups working in the area of operational meteorology in Antarctica, such as the Antarctic Meteorological Observation, Modelling, and Forecasting Workshop Group, and the WMO EC-PHORS (Panel of Experts on Polar and High Mountain Observations, Research and Services), helping to facilitate monitoring of the meteorological observations that come from Antarctica.
This Action Group aims to develop a satellite-based, Antarctic-wide, remote sensing approach to monitor bird and animal populations. This group is co-sponsored by SCAR's Life Sciences and Physical Sciences Groups.
This Action Group aims to improve the knowledge on depositional and metamorphic processes in Antarctic snow and its feedbacks to the climate system, develop a snow classification for Antarctica, protect pristine snow areas, and implement a database to document disturbed areas, historic snow profiles, accumulation data from AWS, stake farms, surface radar profiles, shallow firn – snow cores.
This Action Group aims to produce an assessment of the ocean acidification in the Southern Ocean including the fields of marine carbonate chemistry, global and regional modelling, marine ecology, ecotoxicology/physiology and paleoceanography. This group is co-sponsored by SCAR's Life Sciences and Physical Sciences Groups.
This Expert Group aims to coordinate the discussion and communication of scientific advances in the understanding of climate variability and change in the Southern Ocean, and advise CLIVAR, CliC, and SCAR on progress, achievements, new opportunities and impediments in Southern Ocean research. This group is co-sponsored by WCRP Climate and Ocean -
Variability, Predictability, and Change (CLIVAR), WCRP Climate and Cryosphere Project (CliC), and SCAR.
This Action Group aims to examine climate processes linking the Tropics to Antarctica.
Former Scientific Research Programmes:
The AAA Scientific Research Programme ended in 2018 and became an Expert Group directly under the Executive Committee. It aims to coordinate astronomical activities in Antarctica in a way that ensures the best possible outcomes from international investment in Antarctic astronomy, and maximizes the opportunities for productive interaction with other disciplines.